The Draft: EJ Manuel v. Geno Smith

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Updated: July 10, 2013
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Welcome to DJ’s Chalk Talk: Off-season Week 3! This week we look at why EJ Manuel was the better draft choice than Geno Smith. Enjoy!

Since January we all heard that this year’s draft was thin in first round quarterback talent (to say the least). But that did not scare away our Buffalo Bills.

After trading back from the eighth slot with the Rams, Buffalo acquired the 16th selection and additional second and seventh round picks. This was the Buffalo front office’s dream scenario: to obtain extra picks and still draft the guy they wanted all along later in the first round. How could the draft have gone any better?

As we all know, with the 16th selection in the 2013 NFL Draft the Buffalo Bills selected Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel. The new face of the franchise.

When Buffalo drafted Manuel, this shocked many; including ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay. McShay called the move a “big mistake for the organization.” The draft analyst felt that Manuel had “slow eyes” and his accuracy is “below average to marginal.” These are strong criticisms  towards one of the more successful quarterbacks in this year’s draft class.

When the Bills were on the clock at 16, both Manuel and former West Virginia Mountaineer Geno Smith, who most people felt was the top quarterback in the draft class, were both on the board. Buffalo passed on Smith, who ended up falling to the Jets in the second round (I wish you the best of luck) essentially linking the two quarterbacks’ legacies forever.

But here’s why I feel that EJ Manuel is the superior pick to Geno Smith:

EJ Manuel has outstanding leadership skills. Every team needs a good leader, and the Bills found their guy in Manuel. I’m not sure if you ever watched the video clip of Manuel’s pre-game speech before Florida State’s Orange Bowl game against Northern Illinois (the video was also posted June 10 on the Bill’s “Inside the Bills” blog.) For those of you who have not seen the video yet, I suggest you watch it. This is just a glimpse of we have to look forward to when EJ Manuel takes over as quarterback in the near future.

EJ Manuel also had the highest ceiling as a quarterback in the draft. Manuel is a mobile quarterback with a big arm. What’s not to like? However, the former Seminole isn’t quite polished yet. We know early in the off-season that Manuel worked tirelessly with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to help his footwork, which will improve EJ’s “accuracy problem.” Poor footwork can also result into holding on to the ball too long, which can lead to interceptions and sacks; something none of us want. If Manuel can get his feet underneath him and get his timing down, he will have a bright career with this team.

Towards the end of the pre-draft process, Geno Smith started receiving criticism from some scouts and analysts. People started comparing him to Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, because Newton has been seen on the sidelines pouting  during his NFL career and well… We all know about his press conferences. As far as attitudes go on the sidelines, it’s fair to compare Smith to Newton. When West Virginia struggled against Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl this season, Smith was shown on TV sulking on the sideline. As a player this is not something you want to see your quarterback doing. This brings the morale down.

I’ve never heard any criticism about EJ Manuel’s attitude on the field, sidelines, locker room, or off the field. I’ve seen the exact opposite. There were reports during the off-season activities that Manuel and roommate Marques Goodwin spend some of their free time at home on their iPads studying the playbook. That’s something you love to see!

All you can do is stay tuned to see how the saga ends.